ONE YEAR AGO…
I awoke to a pixie whisper in my ear. “Daddy!” my daughter hissed. “I fink da Easter Bunny came!”
“He did?” I yawned. “Well, I guess we’d better go wake up your brother and see what he left you. Do you want to?”
“Yes!” she hissed. “Yes, Daddy! I do!”
“Shh!” On the other side of the bed, my wife did a half-kick as she insisted, “Wait. I need five minutes. My stomach’s killing me.”
I plodded alongside my skipping daughter across our one-story rental house’s living room (past the two baskets expertly hidden by the Easter Bunny) and into my son’s room to begin the twenty-minute process of waking him from a sound sleep.
Aside from it being Easter Morning, 2014, this was pretty much business as usual–my daughter being the first one awake, my wife wanting “five more minutes,” and my son seconding his mother’s sentiments by demanding the remainder of the day to sleep, as he had already “telled me firty-seven times” to “stop talking to me. I don’t want to do nuffing!”
Sure, my world was pretty nuts, but things were also looking up. With the Twins in a school we’d grown quite fond of and my doctoral coursework in the bag, I had just taken a job I was fairly happy with–one requiring me to wear a tie and commute 45 minutes to downtown Phoenix. While I was not particularly a fan of the obscene amount of time I was spending ironing, attempting to color-coordinate shirt-tie-pants-socks-shoes combos, and coming to a complete stop on the freeway, I was very much a fan of the sudden influx of real, actual grown-ass man income I was earning after slumming it as a student worker for years.
This was also about the point when I had about 30 pages of my dissertation written, and was just starting to kick my own ass every frickin’ night once the Twins went to bed with ice-cream-and-beer-fueled “THIS!IS!SPARTA!” thesis-writing binges usually lasting until about two in the morning. Although the topic of my wife and me having more kids would occasionally come up from time to time, it was primarily as a ridiculously funny joke, as several medical professionals had deemed our reproductive organs to be barren wastelands of fossilized sperm with no tails and one of those egg cartons everyone leaves on the grocery store shelf because it got dropped by that guy who wasn’t paying attention while he was checking the expiration date because he was obnoxiously talking on his cell phone about his entire life story for everyone in the store to hear. These, of course, are highly technical medical terms.
1. Opening a Bottle of Beer
2. Pouring a Bottle of Beer into a Darth Vader Pint Glass in such a way as to Minimize Foam
3. Drinking a Beer out of a Darth Vader Pint Glass
4. Taking a Picture of a Beer in a Darth Vader Pint Glass
5. Compiling a Non-Exhaustive List
On any given night, from about 10 pm to whenever gets the job done, you’re likely to find a single light on in my house–one in the living room by a recliner we inherited from my wife’s grandfather. And in that chair, you are likely to find a disheveled, stubbly-faced thirty-something man hunched over a laptop, cussing out a Microsoft Word document at a volume that will wake neither the sleeping three-year-olds around the corner nor a pregnant woman passed out on the nine-pillow sculpture she has meticulously perfected over the past few weeks. While verbally abusing his own abused verbiage, he’ll likely be nursing a craft IPA or a bowl of ice cream (or both)–you know, just to take the edge off.
In case you haven’t already Sherlocked where I’m going with this, the insomniac in question is me.
While sleep and I are super duper BFFs and take cute selfies with each other like every single night, I elect to stay up after corralling the kids into the bathroom so they can spend 15 minutes whining about not wanting to brush their teeth and two minutes actually doing it; after reading multiple bedtime stories and refusing third encores; after watching my unborn child kick around my wife’s uterus while taking in whatever’s on our DVR; after my wife crashes in the middle of a show and I’m fighting sleep myself even though it’s only 9:30. Yes, despite all of this, I stay up because I have unfinished bidness. Even though I’ve found a big boy job I absolutely love and am working it full-time, I still have that all important, all-encompassing, all-kinds-of-psychotic last step of my PhD to plow through–my dissertation.
I’ll admit I take weekends off, and even a weekday here and there, but since about May of this year, I’ve been on this late-night regiment for a consistent four nights a week. Come 10 pm, I’m in that chair. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing. Snoozing. Wiping the drool off my face. Deleting the full page and a half of letter W’s my dead hand made while I was unconscious. Taking a sip of beer. Taking another five sips. Sighing loudly. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing.
In mid-September I cleared the first hurdle and laid the first draft of my thesis to rest–all 229 pages of it–and turned it into the chair of my committee for his feedback. Then came revisions, which bled into October, and once that was finally done, November’s late nights have been spent tackling the slideshow for presentation at my defense.
For those unfamiliar with the process, after writing and revising your kajillion-page dissertation, you are then asked to “defend” it to a committee of faculty chosen by you. This committee reviews your thesis, and then, at the “defense,” you present your findings in person, followed by the committee asking questions to challenge the validity and thoroughness of your work while barraging you with paintball guns to break your concentration. If the committee is satisfied with the answers you provide, 99 red balloons fall from the ceiling and Bill Murray inexplicably wanders in from the street to shake your hand and congratulate you on becoming a doctor just before performing an impromptu karaoke rendition of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” On the other hand, if the committee is not satisfied, you are handcuffed by an enormous sluglike creature named Jabba and shuttled out to the middle of the desert to be cast into a Sarlacc pit for all eternity.
One of the most thrilling perks of being a PhD student stems from the suspense of visiting the campus restroom. No, really! I’m serious. When you share a space with undergraduate students, you never quite know what you’re going to see when you walk in the door, making for an always-captivating mini-sightseeing adventure, right in the middle of the day.
For instance, creative undergrad use of the facilities often leads to fantastic signs I’d think would be appropriate for my two-year-old son, and NOT for the over-18 crowd. Consider this gem I found in the Engineering building:
Yes, that’s right. Engineering students were apparently having so much trouble with the physics of their own fluids that a visual aid was deemed necessary.
Additional fantastic signage can be found in this newer, more upscale campus restroom:
Again, I could see this as a valid reminder for my two-year-olds, who will climb on absolutely anything they can reach. Had there been a strategically-placed stepstool in this facility, this sign could definitely have applied to them (that is, if they could read). However, I’m not so sure what grown man in his right mind would decide to sit on this sink. Not only would said psychopath drench his ass and get in the way of fellow patrons…but…I mean…why? Sure, there’s some pretty nice marble on this particular sink (I’m not taking that for granite–HAHAHAHAHA), but didn’t hanging out in the boys’ room stop being cool in middle school? Apparently not.
My daughter hooked her arm securely around mine as I held her at my hip–a cripplingly cute mannerism of hers that melts me to my core every single time.
Vocalizing airplane sound effects, I made an extravagant production of swooping my giggling passenger down to the floor to pick up each member of the Hundred Acre Wood institutionalized as her Bedtime Crew, currently featuring Piglet (her go-to daytime stuffty) as well as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (the night-shift support staff who allow for optimal snugglization).
Her teeth brushed and hands washed, she knew we were coming up on bedtime and began her nightly wind-down ritual: gripping Piglet and Company, sticking her beloved right thumb in her mouth, and embracing day’s end with open arms and heavy eyelids.
Our son, however–currently in his mother’s arms–was performing his own nightly routine: maniacal arm-flails punctuated by Oscar-worthy whines. Never ready to pack it in, he’ll dash for the playroom or point at the turned-off tv in a last-ditch effort to stay up just a little longer, to milk as much out of the day as possible. There are still so many blocks to stack, so many books to read, so many Sing-Along Songs to groove to.
And while his unrelenting desire to be awake can be burdensome, I don’t ever fault him for it.
He gets it from me.
It was the worst of times, it was the worstest of times, it was the age of projectile sneezing, it was the age of irrepressible coughing, it was the epoch of mucus, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was okay to use improper grammar while parodying famous literature, because it was hilarious, it was the summer of insomnia, it was the summer of despair, we had everything before us, we had viruses after us, we were all going direct to the doctor, we were all going direct to the pharmacy—in short, the period was so far from the present period, that some of its noisiest Twinfants insisted on its being blogged, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of awesomeness only.
For most of the month of June, my house was baby cold central. As I’ve mentioned previously (in Don’t Fear the Teether, and Think of the Children), my daughter was under the weather, forecasted by my wife and I as thundering storm clouds looming along the Pseudonymous front, and when the storm finally broke, it did, in fact, ignite several torrential weeks of snot-rocket downpours—from both kids.
I realize, O Loyal Reader, that by not following up on this storyline, I’ve left you with a cliffhanger as agonizing as a television-season-ending shocker, and that you’ve been waiting with bated breath for updates on my daughter’s state. For that I offer my sincerest apologies, and humbly ask you to put away that guillotine. Ironically, part of the reason for it is because so much has been happening since then that is worthy of sharing, but the all-consuming nature of caring for ailing Twinfants has kept me so busy that I have not had time (or, let’s face it, the energy) to chronicle these stories. But fear not. That ends right here and now, as Twinfamy has been “recalled to life” and returns to pseudo-continuity. In fact, this Twincident picks up right where Think of the Children left off, on the following day, a Monday.
Week the First – The Snot Still Rises
We had suspected my daughter of having a cold, and after visiting the doctor (for the second time in two weeks), it was confirmed.
“Looks like it’s viral,” our doctor reported, sporting the winning smile with which she breaks bad news, “So there isn’t much to do in terms of antibiotics or other prescriptions. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to ride this one out. Can you do that for me, little girl?” she asked my daughter, who—oh yeah, had been SCREAMING in protest for the last ten minutes while being examined.
My daughter paused a moment, blinked at the unexpected stimulus, and glared with recognition at the stranger who had just been poking at her while all she really wanted was Daddy to hold her, as if to say, Sleep with one eye open, tonight b!tch. She erupted again, drenching herself in a fresh concoction of tears and boogers. Poor baby girl.
“Some things you can try,” the doctor hollered over the tiny soprano, “are a humidifier, elevating her mattress, using saline nasal drops and extracting mucus with a bulb, and Tylenol if the fevers come back. Oh, and a little cowbell can’t hurt either,” she winked.
Well, my wife and I are kind of a big deal, so we’d already been doing all of these, and when I asserted our greatness, the doctor glowed. “Of course you are! You guys are so good. You’re doing a great job, Dad!” Aw, shucks.
I tried to remember this while braving the five-day scream-fest that ensued, as I split my attention between a miserable daughter who wanted nothing but to be held every second, and a son who became jealously aware of this about thirty seconds after I did. However, Daddy tender-love-and-cared the hell out of them both and we saw my daughter finally feeling better and returning to her happy, bubbly self by Saturday.
Week the Second – Calm in Storm
My daughter had beaten the snot out of her cold and had even taken its lunch money. As an added bonus, my son didn’t show any signs of catching it, either.
This week was drenched in Awesome Sauce, the ingredients for which have been shrouded in mystery for decades, despite tireless attempts by the world’s leading scientists and culinary experts. (Some speculate that Chuck Norris enforces its secrecy, but not out loud. That’s just asking for trouble.)
Week the Third – The Substance of the Nostril
Suddenly, out of nowhere (well, actually, his nostrils), my son began sneeze-launching cloud-white, stringy boogers and coughing uncontrollably. Some friends were visiting us that day, so we joked that he might be allergic to them while they were here, and seriously considered it once they left. The Twins had been sleeping from 7 pm to 5 am consistently prior to the sneeze-a-thon, but that night, we were reminded this was a newfound luxury as he woke up hourly, drowning in a salty sea of his own mucus.
Oddly, the next morning he was fine, as if nothing had happened—as if it were all a bad dream, very much akin to my unintelligent former seventh grader students’ thrilling short story resolutions. It quickly turned back into a nightmare, however, around 3 pm, when mucus-bearing missiles again assaulted my unsuspecting daughter and me. After another night of insomnia, a disheveled, zombie version of myself brought him to the doctor AGAIN, for our fourth visit in three weeks.
“Well, hello again!” Dr. RainbowsSunshineAndPinkBunnyRabbits beamed.
“So, I really think you should do a punch card promotion,” I enthused. “You know, like at a frozen yogurt place? I mentioned it to the receptionist, but she was not very receptive.”
She once again went through her anatomical surveillance procedure. Lungs, ears, temperature, cabin air filter, windshield wiper fluid—all good. Since both my wife and I have endured terrible allergies our whole lives, I consider myself an expert on all things allergy–a connoisseur if you will–and thus was pretty convinced my son was having an allergic reaction, possibly to our visitors or something outside. In retrospect, I had correlated both of his sneezing fits with bringing him outdoors. He loves to look at trees, so we’d been watching the ones in our backyard sway in the breeze just before my peeps showed up, and then the next day, I brought him out with me to check on the installation of a new windshield on my automobile. (Some bastard was hauling gravel in a pickup on the freeway and a piece chipped the glass right in my eyeline. It’s okay, though, because it was free. LikeagoodneighborStateFarmisthere!)
I knew I’d be asked about my son’s recent medical history, so I pulled my trusty ukulele out of the diaper bag and launched into “The Ballad of the Possible Allergy to Something Outside,” a twelve-minute opus I’d composed for the occasion, outlining all of the above. However, mid-seventh verse (just before it really starts to pick up) she politely stopped me to say something I did not know, which I will share with you because you are worthy: Since allergies are your body’s immune system rejecting certain things (which I DID know), you need a fully developed immune system to exhibit allergic reactions. However, babies don’t reach this point until 12-15 months out (which I did NOT know). Upon sharing this with our families, my wife’s mother–a practicing OB/GYN–swore she’d already told us this several days ago. We had no recollection, but if it was, in fact, said, I offered a speculative reason for our non-responsiveness. “But you weren’t wearing one of those white coats and a stethoscope when you said it.”
In the end, it turned out that my son had acquired his first cold, but not from my daughter, since he caught it so much later after she’d shaken hers. So again, we employed the same measures taken to heal my daughter just a few weeks hence, with Daddy iron-manning his way into a Daytime Emmy Nomination, sweating through several t-shirts a day and replenishing these precious bodily fluids by valiantly imbibing Samuel Adams Summer Ale once Mommy got home.
Soon (but not soon enough), by the middle of…
Week the Fourth – The Viruses Die Out Forever
…the viruses appeared to have died out forever.
Victorious, my son, daughter and I ceremoniously danced on their graves, mirthfully firing baby formula into the air. Later that day, right in the middle of Tummy Time, I received a personal call from President Obama on a Fisher Price Chatter Telephone, congratulating me on my victory.
My wife and I had survived the Twins’ first colds, and now have one less item on our “What the Hell Are We Going to Do When That Happens?” List. (Remaining items include “My Daughter Starting to Date” and “Oh Sh!t, They Can Reach the Counter.”)
And although it was a trying period, I never once considered seeking out a ne’er-do-well doppelganger to take my place, because whenever I think about being a father, I invariably conclude that it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better experience that I am having than I have ever known.
A 500-Disc DVD Special Edition Bonus Feature
To commemorate the Five-Minute Anniversary of this Twincident, Twinfamy decided to do something special–a Behind-the-Scenes, Making-Of commentary, intended to be read simultaneously with the post itself, similar to the auditory director commentary of a motion picture.
This post alludes heavily to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, one of my favorite novels. If you’ve never read it or were assigned to read it but only pretended to (like I did in high school the first time around) and don’t “get” why I worded things in a certain old-timey way, that’s probably why. However, I do recommend it and hereby make it the first official selection in Twinfamy’s Book Club, a tradition I am igniting because Oprah is a quitter. In fact, it can be read on your worldwide interweb device here. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Additionally, I do realize, O Loyal Reader, this Twincident is lengthier than usual, and yes, because it borrows from literature, is more high-brow than usual. But don’t worry, I still have plenty of poop and fart jokes up my sleeve (or another body part) and will be pulling them out in due time.
Or “doo” time.
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If not, it’s no reason to cut anyone’s head off.
Wife: We need a bigger diaper bag.
Me: Or possibly a pack mule.
Rainy Day Activity!
What is this pack mule carrying? If you can name all of the products in a comment for this post, you will automatically be entered in a chance to win at life, compliments of Twinfamy.com!
Relax, O Loyal Animal Activist Reader–this is not an actual photograph. It was Photoshopped without Photoshop using Microsoft PowerPoint. Furthermore, neither I nor Twinfamy.com advocate the actual use of a pack mule for infant supply transport, primarily because parents already deal with their fair share of feces (sometimes even as an oblivious beautifying facial mask) and the addition of such an animal to one’s entourage would undoubtedly provide even more of an opportunity for sh!t to happen.
We also understand your particular offense to the placement of the Baby Bjorn on the fictional, hypothetical mule’s snout. However, it is not Twinfamy’s fault that the Baby Bjorn is coincidentally bridle-shaped and thus looks especially hilarious in this electronic, not-at-all-intended-for-real-life anatomical location.
The Royal We finally agree that despite the stereotypical “stubbornness” perpetuated by Fox News, the mule is a majestic creature who has just as much of a right to wear hemp and make others feel guilty for thinking steak is delicious as anyone. In fact, in the event that a mule actually is stubborn, it is probably for a viable reason, such as the lack of career options aside from doing oppressive humans’ heavy lifting, or the simple fact that their boys cannot swim due to the chromosonal ramifications of having horse fathers and donkey mothers, not to mention the pressures of having multiracial parents in general.
If you’re still upset, fear not. I have prepared an alternate version. Please forget the above ever happened, and see below.
A 500-Disc DVD Special Edition Bonus Feature
Ready? Here we go! Making the jump to LIGHT SPEED…
Twin Wars: Episode 1 – The Taunt of the Tauntaun
Wife: We need a bigger diaper bag.
Me: Or possibly a pack tauntaun.
Jedi Training Exercise
What is this pack tauntaun carrying? If you can name all of the products in a comment for this post, you will automatically be entered in a chance to win one Jedi training lesson with Yoda, the Jedi Master himself, compliments of Twinfamy.com! Offer does not include travel, and is only valid if you can locate Master Yoda on Dagobah yourself.
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If not, please don’t turn to the Dark Side. Balance has finally been brought to The Force, and you’d just selfishly ruin it for everyone.